Auction

Mario Testino auctions his art collection at Sotheby’s London

On September 13, Mario Testino will auction 41 items from his personal art collection with Sotheby’s to benefit Museo MATE, the nonprofit cultural centre he founded in Lima, Peru. 

Testino is a voracious admirer and friend of many of the artists represented in the sale — from Richard Prince to Cindy Sherman to Wolfgang Tillmans —making this a rare auction that represents more than acquisitions. No wonder the title of the sale is “Shake It Up”. 

According to Testino, “it’s a big exercise to detach yourself from your belongings in order to satisfy greater ambitions. I’ve been collecting for over 25 years and I’ve never ever sold anything. Today is the first time that I’ve decided to sell something because I can see a reason to sell. It’s allowing me to give back to the community that gave me everything.”

Testino explains he came to know and love some of the works with which he’s parting: “in the art world, sometimes it’s not enough to like something; you have to be puzzled by it. You hang it on a wall and every time you see [it], you discover something new. Sometimes I would find a work and I felt it was difficult, but then I’d come back to it after some time and I’d understand it and love it. I think that culture has a particularly important role in society: we learn how to look at things differently, and it pushes our boundaries—that’s what art does.”

Renowned artists from 45 different nationalities will be represented across the auction, including Richard Prince, Georg Baselitz, Wolfgang Tillmans, Rudolf Stingel, Sterling Ruby, Gilbert & George, Adriana Varejão and Cindy Sherman.

The exhibition is on view from September 8 through September 13, 2017 at Sotheby’sGallery, 34-35 New Bond Street, London W1A 2AA.

Mario Testino’s art collection goes up for auction at Sotheby’s in Los Angeles

One of the most influential fashion and portrait photographers of our time, Mario Testino kick-started his photographer career as a freelancer for Vogue and Vanity Fair after a chance encounter.

In his 40-year practice as a photographer, he gained worldwide attention with his unique talent in capturing his subjects candidly and effortlessly. Testino has documented A-list celebrities, supermodels and artists, as well as many royals, including his most memorable sitting with Diana, Princess of Wales, commissioned for Vanity Fair in 1997.

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In 2012 Mario Testino established the not-for-profit MUSEO MATE in Lima to promote and support local and global culture in Peru. 

His impressive contemporary art collection is now at auction at Sotheby’s revealing the artist as collector, patron and collaborator. All proceeds will go toward the expansion of the centre’s programme of exhibitions, residencies and education initiatives, ensuring its success in the future.

Some of the artists include Adriana VarejãoRichard Prince, Georg Baselitz, Wolfgang Tillmans, Cindy Sherman, and Gilbert & George.

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The Shake It Up: Works from the Mario Testino Collection auction will be taking place in Los Angeles from August 15 to 17.

Franklin Pierce University professor tied to fake art scheme

A former Franklin Pierce University professor and her son have been accused of selling almost US$700,000 worth of counterfeit paintings to a well-known art collector, according to court documents.

A recently filed lawsuit alleges that Lorettann Gascard, a former art history professor at FPU and director of the university’s art gallery, and her son Nikolas, sold 24 counterfeit Leon Golub paintings to collector Andrew Hall over a two-year period. 

Hall, who collects postwar and contemporary art, began collecting the works of Leon Golub in 2003, according to court documents. He had acquired about 40 of his works by 2009.

His first experience with the Gascards was in September of 2009, when he purchased a piece through auction. At the time, the piece was said to have been “acquired directly from the artist by the present owner” and brought to auction by the Gascards. Hall purchased six more paintings from the Gascards via auction through March 2011. By January 2011, Hall began dealing directly with the Gascards. All in all, Hall purchased 24 paintings directly or through auction from the Gascards, according to court documents.

In November 2014, Hall, through the Hall Art Foundation, an organsation founded by Hall and his wife Christine, began to plan an exhibit of his Golub collection, which totaled over 60 paintings. When Hall’s foundation asked the provenance of the paintings, the Gascards said the works were either gifts or purchases from Golub, and that they had a personal relationship with the artist.

In preparation for the exhibit, which was due to open in early May of 2015, the Hall Foundation contacted Nancy Spero and Leon Golub Foundation for the Arts to confirm the dates and titles of the works that would be exhibited.

During this process, the Golub Foundation raised red flags about “virtually all” of the works acquired from the Gascards, as there was no record of the paintings in the Golub Foundation’s inventory.

Golub’s son, professor Stephen Golub, emailed the Hall Foundation on March 28, 2015, saying that in addition to the works being “problematic,” neither he nor his brother had a recollection of meeting or hearing of Gascard.

The complaint filed with the court alleges that the Hall Art Foundation began seeking Gascard’s assistance to prove the genuineness of the challenged works.

While a spokesperson at Franklin Pierce University has confirmed that Gascard is no longer employed with the school, no further information was provided. Gascard had been employed with the university from 1997 at least through December of 2014. In May of 2014, Gascard had filed a lawsuit against the university, alleging various forms of employment discrimination.

Alleged fake work of eminent Vietnamese painter auctioned for US$102,000

Shortly after coming under the hammer for US$102,000 during a charitable auction in Ho Chi Minh City last week, Hanoi Old Quarter, a painting claimed to be by famous Vietnamese late painter Bui Xuan Phai has been called out as a counterfeit work.

Phai’s son Bui Thanh Phuong was among the most vocal accusers, saying his father had never painted such a work. “There are only five or six art collectors in Vietnam, so who is keeping whose paintings is a shared knowledge. There is no way a painting by my father that nobody including me has ever heard of just appears out of nowhere,” Phuong claimed.

Bui Quoc Chi, owner of Duc Minh Gallery which had put the painting up for auction, affirmed that the painting was authentic. “I will take full responsibility before the organisers [of the auction],” Chi said.

Despite Chi’s reassurance, many Vietnamese artists have weighed in their opinion on the matter with suspicion.“It does not take Bui Thanh Phuong’s words to know that the painting is a fake, as anybody who has decent knowledge in the field can tell apart the differences,” painter Nguyen Thanh Binh commented.

Binh’s comment was echoed by many other experts in the field, as they all found the painting lacking a sense of Phai-ness.

Their suspicion is founded, as Phai is perhaps the most copied artist in Vietnam, to the point that there’s a saying among insiders that goes “Phai paints more when he’s dead than alive”.

Is a dead shark in a tank really worth millions of dollars? Art, like beauty, is often in the eye of the beholder—but Damien Hirst’s infamous 1991 work, The Physical Impossibility of Death in the Mind of Someone Living, fetched a reported US$12 million for reasons aside from its creative merit. In the video above, Vox breaks down the economics behind high-profile art market sales, and explains why an art dealer’s reputation is sometimes just as important (if not more so) than a work’s creator.

Aboriginal artefacts in Sotheby's auction prompt questions over provenance

“I defy anyone to look at these and not feel uncomfortable,” says Indigenous artist Jonathan Jones of the broad shields listed in the catalogue for the Sotheby’s London auction of Aboriginal Art on September 21.

At first glance, the listing may seem relatively innocuous. However, little is known about how this particular shield came to be in private hands. 

Jones, along with National Museum of Australia senior curator Carol Cooper, is on a mission to find out exactly where shields like this came from, right down to identifying the people who made them. He has set up an informal group of Aboriginal elders from around south-east Australia who he consults when he and Cooper come across similar pieces at auction, in private collections or in institutions.

A number of 19th-century weapons such as boomerangs and spears are listed in the Sotheby’s auction catalogue, alongside pieces from the Fiona Brockhoff collection of early Aboriginal sculpture and contemporary Indigenous art from the estate of Gabrielle Pizzi.

Asked about the provenance of items such as the shield, Tim Klingender, a consultant on Aboriginal art to Sotheby’s London, said it was true some items had been taken as curios in the 18th century and had remained in private hands since, only to be rediscovered in homes in England and Scotland.

Regarding recent cases in which items had been returned by institutions, such as the Shiva statue repatriated to India by the National Gallery of Australia after it was found to have been stolen from a temple, Klingender says there is no comparison. Unlike the Shiva, there is no suggestion the weapons listed at Sotheby’s were stolen, nor their ownership history falsified. However, he says it is true that some ethnographers collected many items such as bark paintings without recording “a single name”.

Jones, whose research focuses specifically on shields, says the lack of detail is deeply problematic. “It’s a challenging idea. If something was sold was it under duress? Were people in a position where they could refuse a sale?,” he asks.

Caveat emptor: why the art world is a legal landmine

It is a privilege afforded to lawyers to observe the problems faced by individuals, families and trustees in respect of their assets and seek to find solutions. Disputes concerning art, antiquities and cultural assets – sometimes more colourful and interesting than the object in question – can be particularly emotive.

One aspect that differentiates the market for art and antiquities from the trade in other valuable assets is that it is largely unregulated; anyone can buy and sell freely without having to comply with any prescribed formal requirements. As the value of such assets increase and the stakes get higher, so does the potential for things to go wrong. This can lead to interesting issues concerning, provenance, attribution, legal title and forgeries (to name a few examples).

The provenance and attribution of an artwork or antiquity are often key considerations. A connection to a well-known historic collection, or authorship by a renowned artist or maker can enhance desirability and thus add significant value. Of course, the reverse is also true in cases where the provenance or attribution turn out to be incorrect.

One can imagine the disappointment of finding out, as one of our client’s did, that artworks, which had been sold as being by a highly regarded artist whose works were in a European royal collection, were actually by a minor artist of no significance and worth many times less than the price paid.

Navigating between fact and ‘sales puff’ can often be a challenge. Does a statement that an artwork is of exceptional quality mean that it is unusually good, or is this just a statement of opinion by the seller? Buyers of art have to be cautious about readily accepting statements made about it. Even pre-eminent experts can sometimes have differing opinions. Matters such as attribution, and the physical condition of an artwork can be difficult to assess when restoration and underlying issues are not always visible to the untrained eye.

The case of Thwaytes v Sotheby’s provides a noteworthy example. Mr Thwaytes consigned a painting, The Cardsharps, to Sotheby’s for sale by auction, putting them on notice that it may be a work by the renowned old master, Caravaggio. Sotheby’s experts examined the painting, but took the view that it was a copy by an unknown artist. The picture could, of course, have sold for many multiples of the sale price had it been sold as a work by Caravaggio.

The buyer, a renowned art scholar, later identified the picture as being an autograph copy by Caravaggio himself. Mr Thwaytes sued Sotheby’s for negligence, but was unsuccessful; the court found that Sotheby’s had not breached their duty since there was nothing that would have been visible on a visual inspection that should have counteracted Sotheby’s view that the painting did not have Caravaggio ‘potential’. The case illustrates just how subjective authenticating a work of art can be.

Unscrupulous sellers - of which, unfortunately, there are a few around - will often make grandiose statements about the artworks/antiquities they are selling in order to secure a sale. It is, therefore, vital for any buyer to make sure that the object being sold is what it purports to be, or at least ensure that there is adequate protection in place should things go wrong.

Tagsmart at the Art Business Conference

Now in it’s third year, The Art Business Conference is a one-day conference held in central London, for art market professionals.

If you’re involved in buying, selling or caring for fine art or antiques – whether you are a gallery owner, manager, art advisor, auctioneer, private collector or professional advisor, this conference will explore the key issues affecting the international art market today.

Through presentations, Q&As, panel discussions, and workshops, industry experts will share advice and insights on many of the key factors in running a commercial art or antique business or collection – including the the latest updates in legislation.

Want a live demo of Tagsmart Certify? Join us at the Art Tech Pavilion to learn more about this completely unique approach to artwork security.

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Tagsmart offers smart, secure solutions for the 21st century art world, designed for the creators, sellers and buyers of art. A new standard for authenticity, Tagsmart Certify tackles the issue of buyers’ confidence head on. Providing an unique solution for art authentication and enabling the creation of a complete artwork provenance history, our products can be used individually or collectively, from physical smart tags featuring the latest DNA and inorganic taggants, to uncopiable Certificates of Authenticity and Digital Certificates which become passports over time. Tagsmart Certify has already been endorsed by leading contemporary artists including Marc Quinn, Mat Collishaw, Gary Hume and Idris Khan.

Jeff Koons' Gazing Ball sculpture at centre of legal tussle between art dealers

Lawyers for Blue Art Limited filed an amended complaint Wednesday night  against David Zwirner and his gallery, which Fabrizio Moretti says failed to deliver a work of art he bought for $2m. The new complaint comes after Zwirner’s motion to dismiss named the previously anonymous purchaser and called the lawsuit “a case of buyer’s remorse”. In response, Moretti’s recent court filings reveal the work at the heart of the case—Jeff Koons’ Gazing Ball (Centaur and Lapith Maiden) (2013), from the gallery’s show that year. And while he previously asked for the original purchase price for the work plus fees, Moretti’s updated suit seeks $6m in total damages.

In the new filing, Moretti’s lawyers say Zwirner and the gallery played “a kind of ‘three card monte’ in which the numbered casts of the sculpture”—an edition of three, plus an artist’s proof—“were distributed to their buyers willy-nilly”.

On 24 June 2014, according to the complaint, Moretti made a purchase agreement and soon put down a deposit of $400,000 on edition 2 of 3, his lawyers say. By early 2015, the gallery told Moretti that the sculpture was nearly complete and the collector started paying off what he owed. In April 2015, the work was ready but instead of being delivered to Moretti, it was labelled as edition 3 of 3 and taken to the Contemporary Art Evening Auction at Sotheby’s in May, where it carried an estimate of $1.5m to $2.5m—and failed to sell.

On 29 June 2015, the court papers say, Moretti paid the final $200,000 he owed and around that time, another sculpture was completed. This one, however, was labelled edition 1 of 3 and went to another buyer, who still owed the gallery $1.6m. Moretti, faced with a bad art market and a sculpture from a series that had now been unsold at auction, says he still had not received his piece by the time he filed his lawsuit on 4 August this year.

Further complicating matters is the fact that the editions that were made are not the same as the one shown at the Gazing Ball show at David Zwirner Gallery in May 2013, the complaint says. That is now classified as a “prototype” and the dimensions of the sculpture ready for collection by Moretti are different from the object he purchased, the collector says.

Moretti’s amended suit alleges that Zwirner’s dealings violate the New York Arts and Cultural Affairs Law, updated in 1991 to “augment the laws protecting art purchasers from the slippery practices of some art dealers”, according to the court papers, and to outline the information that must be provided to the buyer of a sculpture. Moretti is seeking additional damages because Zwirner violated the law in the vagueness of the purchase agreement and in the editioning, the court documents state. The complaint also accuses the dealer and gallery of breach of contract and fraud, among other charges.

Fake or Fortune couple discover €450 painting is actually worth €100K, but there's a catch

Jan and Chris Starckx purchased what they called The Portrait of a Child at an auction for just €450 back in the 1970s. However, over the years, they began to suspect that they were sat on something rather special. After various trials, which even took the pair to Miami to compare the picture to another genuine Kooning, Fiona Bruce and Philip Mould arrived at the couple’s Belgian home to deliver the good news.

“Well, what we have here is an advantage because we know the other painting went for €50,000,” Philip beamed. “I believe, in many ways, that your picture is superior. The artistic impact, the characterisation of the child, the condition is so good, and you have the name carved into the wet paint, and therefore think it’s worth excess of €50,000. I could see it making up to €100,000.”

However, despite buying the painting over four decades ago, they may not be entitled to own the portrait without being able to clear up who sold the picture to them and why.

Chris explained: “After Miami, we came back and I was contacted by the vendor. He told me the person who left painting died three years ago, and left a lot of money and his belongings to his son. This man, he managed to lose all of his money in a very short time and became homeless. At some point, he was asked to clear his house because he didn’t pay the rent, so he asked two friends to get rid of all his belongings and to sell them.”

Fiona chipped in: “This is really important; the man who owned the painting asked his friends to get rid of it for him? Did he write that down – was there any instructions or anything?”

“The sad fact is, you may not own this picture,” sighed Philip. “If the people who sold it to you did not have the right to sell it, you don’t own it.”

Alec Baldwin, the Bait-and-Switch and ‘Original Copies’

News broke this weekend of actor Alec Baldwin having been duped into buying a copy of a painting, Sea and Mirror, that he had long admired, when he thought he was buying the original. But it was an original that he bought—just not the original he had hoped for.

Another Chun Kyung-ja painting suspected of forgery

A series of travel sketches of the late artist Chun Kyung-ja, submitted for Seoul Auction’s summer auction on June 29, was suspected of being counterfeit and pulled from the auction soon after. An art critic claimed that the sketches pieced together artworks in Chun’s catalogue published in 1995 titled “CHUN, KYUNG JA.”

Chun’s “Travel sketches” was composed of 16 drawings with an autograph letter. The auction explained that Chun gifted the sketches to an acquaintance named Mr. Park in 1983, in celebration of his 50th birthday.

An anonymous art critic told Yonhap News Sunday that the sketches are similar to multiple paintings and sketches in the catalogue, mainly created during Chun’s travels.

Giacometti art trove at centre of Franco-Swiss legal tussle

A rich trove of drawings by Alberto Giacometti and photographs of the renowned sculptor and artist has been lying in sealed storage cartons in a Swiss museum for more than two years due to a legal dispute over their rightful ownership.

Swiss prosecutors said they had ordered the seizure of the collection pending a decision by a French court after the Paris-based Alberto and Annette Giacometti Foundation alleged that the works had been stolen decades ago.

The Swiss-born Giacometti, who died in 1966, is one of the best-known sculptors of the 20th century. His “Pointing Man” sold last year at Christie’s for $141 million, the largest sum ever for a sculpture.

Chun sketches pulled from auction over forgery suspicion

Seoul Auction has withdrawn a book of sketches by Korean artist Chun Kyung-ja that was due to be auctioned Wednesday. The book of 16 drawings by Chun was removed from the list of artworks Tuesday, just one day before the auction, amid suspicion the sketches may be counterfeit.

British doubts over Joan of Arc's ring

The Joan of Arc ring, which was temporarily taken out of the UK in March before an export licence was applied for, may not have belonged to the saint. After being taken to France by its new owner without proper documentation, it was quietly returned to London after pressure was exerted by the British authorities. An export licence was then applied for and was quickly granted, on the grounds that there was insufficient evidence that the ring had really once belonged to Joan of Arc.

Copycat artist defends sale of 'Grand Masters'

A reformed forger has rejected criticism that selling his near-perfect copies of world famous paintings is damaging the art world. David Henty, who has previously been convicted of forging passports and number plates, insisted he is simply allowing the public to own great artworks at an affordable price.

Until recently he sold forgeries of Van Gogh, Picasso and Modigliani online, auctioning off hundreds of his works through multiple eBay accounts. He trod a fine line between legality and law-breaking by never explicitly claiming – merely implying – that his reproductions might be authentic originals.

How not to sell stolen art

Art dealer Kenneth Hendel recently found himself in a sticky situation: He was in possession of stolen art. The Florida-based dealer purchased a painting by Picasso after it failed to sell at auction. After the purchase, Wilma “Billie” Tisch, the rightful owner, discovered the painting’s whereabouts and demanded its return. Hendel claims that he is now the rightful owner. The dealer is confident that he will not be forced to return the work because he is working under the assumption that Florida law protects his purchase. He claims that “the piece belongs to the last person who purchased it if it has passed through at least two people since the theft.” This is simply not true.

While it is true that certain aspects of the law in Florida are more forgiving towards current possessors than would be the case under New York law, there are major misconceptions in Hendel’s analysis. There is no law, in any state, that allows someone to gain title over a work after it has passed through a requisite number of exchanges. In fact, a work can be sold by a hundred dealers and yet still belong to an original owner.

Painting by Vu Cao Dam to be auctioned in France, believed to be fake

The painting is called Jeunes femmes prenant le thé is offered for the starting price of 15,000 to 20,000 euros. According to art researcher Ngo Kim Khoi in France, this is a fake painting, which is ugly, with vulgar lay-out and its style is not that of the famous Fine Arts College of Indochina so it cannot be an artwork by Vu Cao Dam.

Art forger goes straight selling £5,000 fakes

These masterpieces should be worth in the region of a half a billion pounds. Except they are fakes produced by David Henty, a convicted forger who produced them in the living room of his house by the seaside Brighton. Mr. Henty was exposed by The Telegraph a little over a year ago for selling his copies on eBay, duping hundreds, if not thousands, of the internet auction site’s customers in the process. But proving there’s no such thing as bad publicity, Mr. Henty has turned the notoriety to his advantage. 

Here's why this small painting costs $20 million

This month, New York will once again host a “gigaweek” of postwar, impressionist, modern, and contemporary art auctions, where hundreds of millions of dollars’ worth of paintings and sculptures will sell every night for five days in a row.

The current narrative sending jitters through the art world is that the market, especially at the high end, is experiencing “a correction,” which is a polite way of saying that wildly expensive paintings are becoming slightly less so. Still, the evening auctions have more than enough multimillion-dollar, museum-quality artworks that will (if they sell) quiet naysayers—at least for now.